Pick His Brain!
I’d like to introduce one of our members, Larry Ludwig, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.
Larry has over 20 years of experience creating and promoting web sites for himself and others.
He’s personally worked with clients: JP Morgan Chase, Lenscrafters, T. Rowe Price, IBM, Comedy Central, GM, Thought Catalog, and Nielsen.
In 2018, he sold the investment review website Investor Junkie for $6 million.
If you have any questions related to affiliate marketing and SEO, please feel free to pick his brain.
Here are the rules.
1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.
2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.
3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.
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How was Investor Junkie Monetized and what was the process of selling it I mean any threshold like when it hit a Million users per month or something else?
Investor Junkie was monetized almost all by affiliate links only.
I had ads earlier on but removed them at points and then only had ads on pages which had no affiliate links.
What are the top 3 lessons you’ve learned ( seo lessons ) from creating that site all the way up to flipping? Did you saw any traffic down during that time? How did you tackle that?
1. Update your content. For SERP and for your site.
Readers want to see the most update-to-date content and it should reflect this.
2. SEO begins with SERP. Look at how your SERP can be different then what else is out there currently.
3. SEO is a sales funnel and should think in terms of a sales funnel in every aspect of it. It’s just that fact you aren’t directly paying per click.
I was hit early on from the original panda update. I figured that one out but not as critical as the 2017 issue.
In Feb 2017 I did see a decrease from what I believe was a negative SEO attack and did recover from it.
I focused on improving the content and making much better UI/UX changes and what other ways I could add value to the reviews than competing sites. I recovered most of it in November 2017.
The interesting part of that was from Feb 2017 till only November 2018 (after I sold even) I had ZERO featured snippets at that time. Featured Snippets are on a different update schedule than regular SERP.
From some data that seems to have changed somewhat. But I was definitely in some penalty box for longer than SEO ranking changes.
I also in that Feb 2017 period brought on an agency to help with me with my SEO issues.
To get a second opinion, and also to help assist with ideas for improving and bounce ideas since they worked with many other companies and saw updates/changes more than my specific niche.
I was busy with other site changes and wanted more focus on it.
What’s a solid piece of advice you would give to startups that are doing similar work as yourself?
Can you give a more specific question(s)? I have no idea what line of business you are in and what is your niche.
Do you find strategic commonalities or massive differences in approach or process?
Those at the time weren’t for SEO and at different times in my life.
JP Morgan I helped developed the first version of their web site (in 1995).
Comedy Central I helped scale their web site hosting for a contest during Thanksgiving.
Yes their orgs are dramatically different.
How did you identified your niche and how was that you decided to build a website about it?
I picked investing on purpose.
I selfishly needed a site in 2010 that spoke to me about investing.
Suze Orman and Money Magazine weren’t cutting it.
I originally created a banking compare site and knew with ZIRP rates (look it up) that wasn’t going to go anywhere for a long time.
I also knew that if we are in ZIRP environment that is a boon for investing and stocks.
So that naturally made sense.
Lastly, most of the other personal finance blogs are about debt and/or getting out of debt.
My thoughts were there are many sites already about debt and it was an overcrowded niche.
So I decided investing was a smart idea.
Keep in mind this is before alot of the Fintech companies that were created because of the ZIRP policy.
IMHO a lot of these companies were created because of the ZIRP policy.
You can more about the details of how I started here.
Taking into account the ever increasing content length & quality war and the general cost of quality link acquisition today, if you had to start over with maybe $500 to allot towards a project, what would you do?
My SEO strategy was to divide and conquer.
On Investor Junkie purposely built out a section of reviews from scratch with supporting content to be the authority in that topic/section.
When you created Investor Junkie in 2009, did you already have a team/company structure in place? What do you like to automate? If beginning an affiliate site by yourself, what do you believe is most important to invest in first, in order to take the site to the next level, VA’s, paid ads, in-house content creators, web dev, a lawyer, …?
I started by myself on 2009 other than my team helping for supporting the web hosting side.
I had a tech support person and a billing person help with any billing needed with merchants. That was it.
I did all of the writing, web design, SEO, tech build-out (including and custom plugins) all myself.
Obviously, not everyone is going to have all of these skills to do it themselves and eventually did hire others to do most of this work.
I hired others to write, do web design, SEO and work with the merchants.
In the end I still did some writing and mostly did the tech to automate a lot of the widgets/shortcodes on the site.
Related to SEO I did much of the planning of articles, SERP analysis, and build-out of things to help with SERP (ie JSON-LD)
I should add I had an existing web hosting and web development business already when I started Investor Junkie.
How much revenue was Investor Junkie making before you sold?
I can’t disclose that because of my NDA.
For this level of success how much do you think it is down to the methods & execution and how much of is down to the niche? Also If you were starting again today would you still consider the finance/investing niche?
I have the belief:
“What matters isn’t how unique your idea is, but how well you execute on it.”– Larry Ludwig.
In fact, I had a previous business partner tell me in 2009 that it was a bad idea to start Investor Junkie.
There were already too many other investment sites. He’s eating crow now.
Once my non-compete ends I’m considering it.
Though it wouldn’t be exactly the same type of site… otherwise why did I sell it??
Personal finance is a large niche and there are any issues people have with it. I’ve contemplated helping fellow business owners as one idea.
Since many are bad at it yet have more money than the average joe.
Right now I’m building out courses (like one I just finished on SEO for Writers) and helping entrepreneurs through my personal brand.
Many fail just at the basics of online marketing or nowhere near using online marketing effectively.
One regret I have is I didn’t build out a personal brand in parallel to the corporate brand of Investor Junkie.
I purposely built out the site so I wasn’t tied to the brand.
I saw too many other bloggers do this and IMHO is just plain dumb if you want an exit.
Tony Robbins, for example, could NEVER sell his business.
Though there are definitely advantages to a personal brand.
I also don’t care about selling my personal brand because I had one exit already.
I have other ideas of brandable sites not tied to me.
Though will always be building my personal brand going forward.
When you created your articles. How long would it take for you to see the results to see what’s working best?
Depends. In an existing category it could have been as quickly as a week.
What’s the best tool to track which keywords send the most traffic to your site?
In the light of ever growing popularity of video and audio, how do you see the future for websites in general? If you were to start again today, would you go for YT channel or website or perhaps a podcast? One more thing, just to increase the possibility of a satisfactory (for me) answer: you have to choose one option, “build both channel and website” is not on the table.
Admir Tulic YT for SEO is a much easier right now then regular search.
Podcasts are also starting to be indexed by google.
So these are more channels/mediums you can get your message out.
What I’m doing now myself is going to build out a podcast and YT channel for the exact reasons I just mentioned.
What recommendations do you have to build a successful personal brand along side an existing business? I spotted your comment above and wondered how you think this could be achieved so as to NOT end up like Tony Robbins?
Some forms of communication lends its more to a personal brand. Like email, video and podcasting.
The personal brand is something that can be larger than the corporate brand.
Where does the $6M valuation comes from? Is it solely based on the website income? Or maybe there were other factors that were considered (branding, long website history, other)?
There are two factors companies determine the valuation of a business like mine.
Revenue and amount of visitors.
There are other items that can move the needle slightly but those are the two major factors.
What was the major challenge you faced while running investor junkie? What lessons have you learnt from creating, promoting and selling websites?
Major challenge: Realizing that what got me as a business and where I wanted the next level of the business would be two different companies (and one of the reasons why I sold).
Meaning affiliate revenue only wasn’t going to make me say a $10M/year company.
At least with just Investor Junkie it wasn’t. Either I needed another brand to build, or add other things on like courses.
It’s not how unique or complex your business idea is, but how well you execute it.
How much gross & net revenue was the website making per month on average and was it mostly from affiliate links?
I can’t answer this per my NDA agreement.
You reviewed multiple niches in the financial realm. Which niche was the most lucrative to write reviews about?
Specifically credit card, BUT it’s the most difficult in terms of SEO and compliance.
NerdWallet is a $60/M year company because of this.
Outside of this I believe the current space in PF that’s open is insurance and ripe for some improvements.
Debt pays much better than investing because overall our society is more in debt than can invest.
There is much higher demand for debt-based services, than investing.
How many articles in total have you produced since inception? Sorry for all the questions but I happen to operate a very similar site that I’m looking to scale up at your level in the next few years.
About 1300, but IMHO isn’t a good KPI to measure.
I would measure other things.
If my blogger can produce 1 x 2,500 word article per week versus 3 x 800 words articles per wk.? What’s a better strategy?
Another bad metric to measure.
Whichever answers the questions needed by readers better. Depends upon the niche.
What has been your process for streamlining content creation and working with external writers?
1. Hire an editor to do this.
2. Have an SOP for what to expect from the writers.
3. Research SEO terms before a single word is written to know where there are gaps in content in our existing content and competing content.
4. Set specific dates when items are due.
I noticed on your reviews you had “Updated date” but not “Created date” like most other blogs. Why is that? Have you noticed an SEO impact by doing it this way?
Yes, we purposely removed the created date, and wanted Google to use the updated date as the date of the article.
We were constantly updating articles to make sure they were current. Ideally the day a new feature came out.
It was a freshness indicator and I believe helped with SEO.
Which affiliate networks did you sign up with to get those credit card and debt offers?
On the current site, there are now credit cards.
It is something I didn’t recommend nor recommend on an investing website.
That is the new owners decision, and it appears they are using cardratings.com
Do you recommend going through a website like flippa or empireflippers to sell a website? How did you sell yours?
They approached me in my case. Otherwise, depending upon the size those are options.
I spoke quite a bit to Founders https://foundersib.com/ and they are known in my space.
Quite a few of my friends have used them for the process.